Don't read the title wrong, this is not a post about the progress of/in a dilemma, this is will be about a dilemma we are (well, I am) facing in the ongoing "progress of our business" i.e. growing - taking us ever further.
Last Friday I had my monthly meeting with Richard C. (business consultant - and friend). And although I had told him not to bring more new ideas - the dust from the Exhibition has hardly settled, plus many other busy activities had to be done and dusted - of course Richard brought 'food for thought' with him. Not to implement straight away or next week; the only promise I had to make was to ponder about it.
And I have, pondered that is. And find myself facing a dilemma: diversify further or not to diversify further.
Some background first. We have two types of 'customers: GSI-ers (customers mostly in the East Kent area who Get Someone In - us - for both the supply and installation) and DIY-ers (supply only - all over the UK). At the moment it's roughly a 50/50 situation, but the number of DIY customers is growing. And that on its own is giving me a bit of a logistic headache already.
Both types of customers are 'served' in the same way: quality products, quality (free) advice and quality service and after care. The DIY-ers take up the least of time we have to spend with: first contact made through our websites, emails and/or phone calls are exchanged or visit to our showroom made, requirements discussed and order placed. (And then sometimes the logistic headache starts: not all products ordered come from the same manufacturer/supplier. If the customer lives in East Kent, not a problem, but more and more come from further afield - try 300 - 400 miles up North or up West!)
Because of these two facts: more DIY-ers and least time (read costs) spend Richard suggests to increase the effort on this group in a way that doesn't costs too much extra time or attract extra costs. He gave a really good visual picture of this:
Meaning: same quality products; differently presented, differently served and hence different total price.
At the moment our 'restaurant' has candle lit tables, but the sign outside states: self-service possible.
All patrons come through the same door (showroom, websites, emails, phone) into the same 'candle lit place'. The diners are escorted to their table and full service is bestowed upon them; the 'self-servers' place their order at the 'bar' counter, wait at simple undressed tables and when their number is called collect their order (read: is delivered directly from supplier) or if the waiter is in their neighbourhood brought to their table to 'take-away' (read: delivered by us from our small storage facility).
The idea now is to take those few simple undressed tables out of the candle lit restaurant and place them and more in the dedicated 'self-service' area (I really like this visual picture!).
The signage has to be precise too, so no 'posh' diners end up by mistake in the self-service canteen or vice versa. Meaning in real life: different scripting for both types of customers on the websites. That's not really a problem, we already have two different domain names - why you can read in my novel - which now are very much integrated to portray to be only one website.
And our Mamut CRM-program already enables me to send out different scripted emails (half-automagically) to the different types of customers/prospects.
No, my dilemma is the logistic headache. Are we still too small to handle more DIY orders from all over the country? Do we turn our online showroom back into a online shop? If so, do we make all high quality products available online or just a selected few? How are we going to price small orders or combinations from different suppliers?
Back to the self-service restaurant: imagine coming in and choosing a 'set-meal'. Starter, main dish, desert and a drink on one tray. You take the tray from the display and walk to the check-out to pay. No problems.
Imagine choosing just a cup of soup. You still have to pay for that large tray it sits on. That's a problem.
Or imagine choosing a 'set-meal' but you ask for the normal coffee to be swapped for decaffeinated coffee. A cup of decaffeinated coffee is sitting right there on display, next to your 'set-meal'. But swapping something of a 'set-meal' costs extra, the counter person tells you.
That's a big problem.
I know the DIY area is a very wide (whole country) area and a growing area too. Specially our DIY-ers. They are not interested in the cheap and cheerful products of the normal DIY-sheds (B&Q, Wickes, Focus) or the cheap 'dedicated' retail outlets for floor covering (Floors2Go, ToppsTiles). Our DIY-ers want quality products, durable products, quality advice and quality service. They know the better quality they buy, the easier it is to install themselves (and hence saving fitting-costs, which enables them to buy the more expensive and higher quality products anyway).
And our existing experience already tells us that our DIY-customers are loyal customers - ambassadors even. And we do want to cater them better, simpler and more.
Hence my dilemma. How do I tackle this logistic headache, can I tackle - as small retailer without stock - this headache? Should I try with a few simple 'set-meals' first or should I set the 'tray' price higher to allow 'swapping' of the various dishes? (Where, another logistic headache, the soup could arrive after the desert!)
Anyone care to drop me 'pain-killer'? I welcome any 'medical' advice.